Saturday, February 24, 2018

Is this a great country or what?

“A lot of swearing going on" 

            One morning last week, Kay encroached upon my sense of solitude in order to ask, “Should I put honey or jelly on my toast?”

            Why would she ask such a question? I suppose it’s because her husband is a control freak and she must clear everything with him. -- Excuse me a second. – “No, Darling, my wallet is on the cabinet, next to the Keurig. Please leave me enough to tip the Sonic girl.”

            Where was I? Yes, honey or jelly? I didn’t want to complicate the stupidity—uh, the simplicity of the question, so I said, “Use honey, Honey.”

            During my next sip of coffee, Kay said, “But, I had honey last time.” Whoa. Here we have a case where a husband makes a decision before doing any research. I had paid no attention to Kay’s previous selection of toast spread. So, I had nothing on which to base my answer other than my own particular preference, which would’ve been butter. However, butter, not being offered as a choice, I went with honey. I got it wrong.

            By the way, Kay was merely playing along with my habit of coming up with stupid questions for her, last one being, “Who would win in a fight between Batman and Flash?” Before answering, Kay carefully weighed the abilities of each superhero. She said, “Is Batman George Clooney or Ben Afleck?”

            Illogic drives me right up the wall. I told Kay that the Batman character is the same, regardless of who plays the part. And that Flash could undress Batman, then run to a Walmart in Tornonto, come back and dress the Cape Crusader in Batman pajamas, eliminating his access to his little metal bat throwing things, or bullet deflecting gloves or anything that could protect him.

            Now, Kay just gave us an example of someone using an irrelevant truth on which to base her opinion, which begs the question, where am I going with all of this? Deep, my friend. From the toast-thought to the depths of political-thought.

            For most of our lives, we’ve been witness to decisions made and opinions formed by people (like us) who don’t know all of the truths surrounding a given situation. A close friend of mine agreed to spend Super Bowl weekend with us just so I’d have someone to watch the game with. He had sworn off pro-football because of some players kneeling during the National Anthem. They’re making millions of dollars, yet have the gall to show their disrespect for the greatest country in the world.

            Even though football season is over, the anger persists, and the hue and cry is for something to be done so the behavior doesn’t show itself again.

            I must say that any demonstration in our country over issues, real or imagined, should give us increased pride in this country of ours. After all, a million or so Americans have fought and died to secure our right of peaceful protest. Today there are several million American citizens and non-citizens, whom, after having sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United State, are out there right now doing just that.

            That’s the only thing federal workers must swear or affirm -- to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Not, the nation, its people, our churches, our immigrants or our institutions. Just the Constitution, because in defending and protecting the oldest working Constitution on earth, they are protecting every person in this nation right now the right of life, liberty and property.

            The Presidential  oath is a little different in that he also swears to “preserve” the Constitution. Congress doesn't have to “preserve” anything, however they must swear to protect, defend and “support” the Constitution. A lot of swearing going on in the halls of government.

            In doing so, our government officials are assuring the rights of all of us to peacefully demonstrate against any governmental action or inaction. I’m not saying there will be no repercussion for demonstrating. Your employer might fire you for demonstrating, but he will need to show a federal judge that he has a Constitutional right to do so, and the Supreme Court can change the judge’s ruling if it feels it was wrongly rendered.  More than likely you’ll lose a few friends who don’t agree with your stance on an issue.

            Regardless, continue to boycott football. And, if you have a suspicion that Starbucks is trying to steal Christmas from you by not using cups with the proper colors, boycott ‘em!  Persecute the daylights out of ‘em, but please, do it in a godly manner.

            Bottom line, after researching the truth surrounding something that we view as unacceptable, we have the right to be angry, to share our anger and to raise a big stink against whatever we see as wrong. But, perhaps we should also take a moment to recognize the wisdom of our founding fathers in preventing our government from taking action against those who legally demonstrate their displeasure in the way things are run.

            We each have the right to voice our grievances. We can demonstrate against some of the actions or inaction of our government officials, and we have the right to demonstrate against those who are demonstrating. Is this country great or what! – And, to think, this all started with a question about toast. 


Mark can be contacted at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


"The Age of A-scared"

            Seven years ago, America’s last veteran of WWI passed away at the age of 110. Name was Frank Buckles of West Virginia. His record for being the Last Living WWI veteran will never be bested… which is generally the case when you’re the “last” of something.

            Everything that ever was or ever will be has a last. Someone will end up winning the last Academy Award for Best Actress. Hopefully, she has yet to be born. The last person to pay for gasoline with cash is probably out there right now.

            There is someone in our midst right now who will be the last person to ever live in a neighborhood where no one ever locked their doors. Right now there are a few million Americans who claim that distinction, but most of them are making up stuff.

            Of course, I’m not lying when I tell you that during most of my childhood in Pasadena, Texas, we seldom locked our doors. Dennis locked the door on me one night when David Stone and I were camping out at his house. Dennis knew I’d get a-scared and come running home before morning, so he locked the door. (By the way, when I was a young, I was never afraid. “Afraid” was not strong enough. I was always “a-scared.” We all were.)

            Zoom forward a few decades and we find ourselves no longer a-scared. Fearful is what we are. Fear has pretty much captured this country. Have you noticed? If you want to get elected to any political office you’d best preach FEAR. 

            Americans didn’t used to be quite as afraid of foreigners as we are now. Of course, some white people have always feared people of color; people of color fear the cops; everyone fears airports and the flu. A North Korean named Kim Jung-Whatever is a person of major concern, as is anyone who walks into a bank or Valero with a hoodie pulled down over a ball cap and sunshades. The only people we’ve been told not to fear are the Russians. 

            Yep, fear is big. And, it’s expensive. The proposed National Budget calls for an $160 billion increase in military spending for a country that spends about $16 billion more on its military than the next eight countries combined. The budget calls for $40 billion for the continued construction of a wall that will cost upwards of $1.5 trillion dollars to complete. If Mexico weren’t paying for it, we’d be in a real mess. 

            Fear apparently has no bounds, nor does its price. When Kay and I moved into our new house, we were besieged by door to door salespersons. Pest control people raised fear over termites and roaches. Salesmen preached fear of water. They offered to test our tap water for free. They apparently wanted to scare us with findings of biological contaminants and mineral deposits.

            The only salesperson I spent time with was the guy selling security systems. Over the course of our marriage, Kay and I have been burgled three times. When we first moved to Conroe, we were driving a Ford Falcon that belonged to Kay’s Dad. He had just put new speakers in the thing and asked me to be sure to keep the car doors locked. I was so unused to locking car doors that I forgot. The first night we were in the apartment someone stole Uncle Ray's radio and speakers.

            When we were living in our first house in Conroe, somebody broke a window and stole our Video Tape Player. They also got Uncle Ray's IBM computer that he loaned me. While Uncle Ray hated to lose the speakers out of his car, he didn’t mind the computer so much. That was the most complicated technical device known to man. If NASA scientists had used it instead of their slide rules during the Apollo 11 mission, we would’ve never made it to the moon.  

            A month to the day later, the burglar(s) shattered the same window and took our new Video Tape Player. They unplugged our old stereo system, but decided against taking it. I felt more insulted than angry about that. The police went to the trouble of getting a palm print, but said they doubted they’d ever catch the thief. They guessed right.

            I don’t know what kind of security systems they had in the early ‘80s, but it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t have bought one. The thing would’ve been as complicated as the IBM we lost. But, over the past 35 years, they’ve no doubt improved.

            And, they may be cheaper than they used to be, but they’re still expensive. The cheapest security package the salesman offered us included devices on every window and door, and alarms in every room. Once activated, the alarms had to be shut off individually. I'd have to keep a stepladder handy.  For a lot of extra money, you can have cameras set up anywhere inside or outside the house. I asked the salesman if they were the same cameras used to take those blurry photos of Big Foot. He smiled... or smirked. It was hard to tell.

            I mentioned Big Foot, just to demonstrate that I’m a person who is able to maintain a sense of humor during the Age of Fear. And, I have every confidence that the last person to have a sense of humor has yet to be born. We’ll get through this… until we don’t. And, fear not, this is not the time we don’t. (Isaiah 41:10) – Next time.

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Sunday, February 11, 2018


“Forgotten diary"

            I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m incapable of keeping a diary for longer than a week or two. To keep a diary requires a person to record entries at the end of the each day.

            The end of each day is my favorite part of the day. It becomes a pain if I take on the task of sitting down and writing about what happened during the day. I suppose I could record the events of the day while reading the newspaper, and have Kay type it up for me, but, again, I’m reminded of the series “Dateline.”  

            Wonder of wonders, I just discovered a diary that I kept from January 1, 1974 to September 9, 1974. I wrote it in a Big Chief Tablet. That’s why I didn’t remember having it. What idiot would keep a diary in a second grader’s tablet? I found it today while looking for a legitimate tablet to use for notes.

            January 1974, was the beginning of a major transition in the lives of Kay and me. I apparently considered it a time to take notes. We had just moved from Conroe to Huntsville where I was to begin graduate work at Sam Houston to get my Masters in History. After two years as a forester for the Texas Forest Service headquarters in Conroe, I decided I wanted to be a college professor. What a hoot.

            I withdrew my TFS retirement savings ($1100) to get us started. Although Kay had little work experience and didn’t know how to drive, it was MY plan that she would get a job in Huntsville to support us for as long as it took me to finish graduate school.

            See what I mean about transition? Under my careful tutelage, Kay learned to drive and got her license. Then she did her part in teaching me how to cook. On January 9, I mentioned in the diary about cooking my first stew. It was the first of many.

            Landing a job took a little longer for Kay. Let me read you my entry for February 5, which would be almost 44 years to the day. – “Today it happened! Kay got a job! The Department of Corrections called this morning and she had an interview at 2:30 this afternoon. The job pays only $300 a month, but that’s going to help out a lot. We celebrated by getting burgers at Sonic.”

            The job was with TDC’s Windham School District. Kay worked out of the Walls Unit for a department that followed-up on inmates who had completed their schooling while at TDC. Incidentally, Kay had been working at the Walls Unit for five months when the Carrasco incident took place. I would be shocked if more than a few of you can remember when San Antonio drug boss, Fred Gomez Carrasco, and two other inmates attempted a breakout at the Walls Unit.  -- (A short documentary on Carrasco Incident.)

            During an 11 day siege, they held 15 Windham employees hostage in the library. I find it hard to believe that a movie was never made about that incident. Fortunately, Kay wasn’t in the library at the time, so she and her co-workers were escorted out of the building as soon as word got out about the takeover. Things were so tense that I recorded nothing in my diary during the entire incident. I’m such a doofus.

            But, I did write something about Watergate. Look at this. “February 26: Last night the President held a news conference and managed to keep from answering almost every question asked. It’s going to be interesting to know how history handles Mr. Nixon. The majority of us will be in our graves before much of the truth is let out.” And to think, 44 years later someone’s come out with the movie “Mark Felt” which is about Woodward and Bernstein’s source, Deep Throat. Ironic.

             Oh, and do any of you remember this? “March 6: Today, about every conversation on campus was about the new fad of streaking. It seems, in this highly sophisticated age, the craze is to take one’s clothes off and run around the campus. Although I have not yet witnessed such an act, I’ve still got my hopes.”

            The next day I wrote: “March 7: Tonight Kay and I went down to the campus to witness the streaking craze. We saw several thousand people drinking and watching several guys run the street unclad. It was quite an experience. One that probably got pretty wild after we left.”

            I have on-going entries about a few of the research papers and books I had to read over the semester. Kay typed all of my research papers on a borrowed electric typewriter. That’s when you had to count spaces near the end of each page to make sure you’d have room to include the footnotes. Next to a math textbook, a research paper was the worst thing to have to type. There is no telling how many Kay typed for over the two years I was taking courses. That girl did so much for me.

            There are so many other incidents recorded in the diary, some of which I remember, but most of which have escaped my memory’s storehouse. What I’ve learned from this brief experience is that you don’t write a diary for yourself, because your brain tends to hide the sad moments, which are the parts I’ve omitted from this reading.

            I know it’s important to remember the path we took to get we are, but the remembrance of parts of the journey can darken the mind’s eye. I shall now return the Big Chief to its hiding place… and go hug Kay. I’ll never get over what all she went through for us. For me.

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Dead or alive

“Dead or Alive”

               One thing that happens at the beginning of each New Year is a special segment of a news broadcast whereby a sad song is played as a display of pictures of famous people who died the previous year rolls across the screen… lest we forget.

            And, boy, do I forget. There were several people who died in 2017 who I thought were already dead. Rose Marie? I had no idea that woman was here during 2017. I knew Jim Nabors had long passed. I even watched his funeral. Fats Domino? I saw his documentary when he died back in 2015. Martin Landau? The man has been gone for a good while. So, I thought.

            These twice-dead experiences gave me an idea for a new game show called “Dead or Alive?” Ten contestants are standing on stage each with two buzzers in front of ‘em. A picture of “Lumpy Rutherford” is flashed on the screen and Terry Bradshaw yells, “Dead or Alive?” Each contestant has two seconds to hit either the red or the green button, after which Bradshaw gives a brief history of the person before announcing whether or not he or she is still alive.  

After about ten dead or alive choices, the person with the most right answers gets $20,000 and a chance for doubling it or losing it all on one more go at “Dead or Alive?” – “I’ll go for it, Terry!” – The audience goes wild, after reading the big flashing sign that reads “GO Wild!” When things calm down, a picture of Ruth Buzzi flashes on the screen.

This game show is a sad idea, indeed, isn’t it? I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a popular show, I’m just saying it seems morbid. Each time a contestant hit the dead button, he would be hoping like all get out that the celebrity was dead. Most guests wouldn’t think of that, but they’d sure be doing it.

If you really want to get morbid, and who doesn’t, think of the number of times we’ve each wished someone else dead. In 1970 during the Vietnam War, each day that Walter Cronkite announced how many American soldiers died on that particular day, I would pray that my brother, Dennis, wasn’t one of ‘em. Without realizing it, I was wishing that someone else's brother had died. The same feeling has come over me after hearing of a fatal auto accident near home. If Kay were in town, I’d immediately pray that she was alright… preferring that someone else be the recipient of sad news.

It’s just that death is so permanent. While my faith tells me that “it’s a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” it’s “the going part” that still scares me. That is so natural. It would be super-natural not to think that. And, when my time comes, I’m hoping to be supernatural as all get out. I’m already abnormal, so I’m just one step away.

It’s the advent of the New Year that got me thinking about this whole death thing. The New Year and Big Al. Kay and I had Al and Jill over for New Years. Al only stayed a couple of hours. Over the years, his visits have become seldom and short. Anyway, as we were yakking and snacking, Al announced that he mistakenly thought he was supposed to die in 2017. He said that even though he had three hours left, it didn’t seem like he was going to be kicking off.

What? That’s what I said. “What?” He said he just had a feeling that something was going to happen to him. I told him that the minute he got the feeling he was supposed to tell me about it. That way, when he died, I would be able to tell people that he was clairvoyant. He said, “Yeah, but what happens if I don’t die?” I told him that I could tell people he was nuts… which he proved to be.

Al’s comment made me share a moment I had with Mom. Shortly after the Christmas of 2005, I was driving Mom home after our gathering at Jill’s house. Mom made a comment about something that looked really nice. I don’t remember what it was. I said, “Maybe next Christmas you’ll get one.” – She said, “Oh, Mark, I’m not going to see another Christmas.” She said it matter-of-fact, as if I already knew. Boy, did I scold that woman. -- She died five months before Christmas 2006.

After I told that story, Al’s eyes started watering. He told us that the last time he saw Mom she was sitting in a chair at Larry’s house. Al was getting ready to leave when Mom called him over. (This is when Al’s voice broke at the telling of the story.) He said, “She reached up to hug me and then whispered, ‘Goodbye. I love you.’” As mentioned, it was the last time he saw her. She passed three weeks later.

And, if I know anything, I know that my mom was ready to leave. We weren’t ready for her to go, but she was sure ready. And, for that I am so thankful. Elsie Hayter saw all she was supposed to see and did all she was meant to do. And, then she was taken.

Al? That guy has more to see and much more to do. And I expect to see a lot of that happening for him in 2018. I happen to be a big fan of Big Al.
Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at